For the first few minutes of the gathering we celebrated the birthday of a colleague. We laughed, told stories, and ate cake. Then we moved almost effortlessly to agony. Just a few moments before we were laughing. Now we were all crying and praying for another colleague who had just given us an update on a family tragedy.
We all knew it was coming. We were all aware of the agony that would fill the room, and we all knew how that would go. What we didn’t know was if we would laugh and celebrate, and how it would be taken.
Laughter and Agony
The Apostle Paul told the church at Rome to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Most of the time these isolated from one another, but not necessarily. In this fallen world where we cluster together, we will find ourselves feeling a myriad of emotions in very close proximity to one another, if not simultaneously.
How does your group (staff team, community group, co-workers, family) handle simultaneous events that are polar opposites emotionally? Can you celebrate the pregnancy of one while mourning the infertility of another? Is your group or team a safe place to share about a job promotion knowing another’s job is on the line or going away soon? Does the one who just loss a parent feel comfortable enough to grieve before the group while another feels comfortable enough to celebrate going home for family Christmas? Can a couple come to group in the midst of a fight? Can the group handle it?
These scenarios may not seem like reality for you personally or for your group. Furthermore, the you should not feel shame if this is not a reality now. Trust does take time, but not necessarily a long time.
Here’s another example: after attending a group for just three weeks one member opened up about past family hurts. Moved to tears, she shared how God is walking with her through the pain and the process of healing. Trust was demonstrated to the group in her vulnerability. This act of being vulnerable and trusting the group with her hurt was an exercise of faith.
Because the aforementioned group member demonstrated vulnerability and trust, culture was strengthened (if not cemented!) in the group. The entire group mourned that hurt with her in that moment. Community was transferred. Though it was not spoken verbally, “You belong here” was felt poignantly in that moment. No longer a guest, she is in. She belongs.
Emotional intelligence and social awareness obviously play major roles in this dynamic. However, there is something more foundational: the gospel of Jesus Christ working in the lives of his people. The gospel not only informs us about our new identity as a child of God—fully accepted and loved by Him—it also transforms us to live this way. The Holy Spirit now lives in us. We are not left to our own abilities. God tells us what is now true and empowers us to live in that new reality.
So, we are no longer enslaved by our emotions, our hurts, or our successes. We are free to both rejoice and celebrate, to weep and grieve. And we can do this with others. Bearing one another’s burdens is fulfilling the law of Christ. We are better together.
This post was originally published on the LifeWay Pastors Blog.